MANILA -- The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Saturday honored all fallen Special Action Force (SAF) troopers, including the 44 who died in January in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
PNP Chief Police Director General Ricardo Marquez led the celebration of SAF Memorial Day at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Marquez, SAF head Police Director Moro Virgilio Lazo, and other key officials attended the event to pay tribute and give honor to the fallen men and women, considered the elite members of the Philippine police force.
PNP officials led a wreath-laying ceremony for all SAF troopers who died in line of duty.
"I am proud to say that the heroes we honor today have indeed lived and served God, country and people along the core values of service, integrity and excellence. Together, let us continue to give life to the SAF motto, 'By skill and virtue, we triumph’ and I say, by their lives sacrificed, we triumph," Marquez said, in a statement.
EX-SAF CHIEF HONORS FALLEN 44
Retired SAF head Getulio Napeñas also attended the celebration. Napeñas is facing charges for his role in the anti-terrorism raid, which saw 44 of his men killed by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and other lawless elements.
He was criticized for taking orders from then suspended PNP chief, Alan Purisima, while not informing then PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gregorio Catapang of the developments.
Speaking to reporters, Napeñas recalled his days as chief of the elite police force and how he bonded with his troops.
"Mahal ko yung mga tao na yan, yung 44 na iyan. I joined them sa lahat ng activities. There's not one instance na I visited Zamboanga na hindi ako kumakain kasama ang mga iyan. Losing them is painful, especially since they are very close to my heart," he told ABS-CBN News.
Napeñas said while accepting the death of his men remains a struggle until now, he said he will be able to move on someday.
SAF 44 KIN ATTEND RITES
The bereaved families and friends of SAF members also attended the Memorial Day rites.
Marquez handed out financial assistance to the families of the fallen SAF troopers, some of whom expressed their dismay over how politicians use the name of their fallen relatives in their speeches.
"Hindi naman lahat sila ay totoo, ginagamit kaming parang propaganda lamang," said Felicita Nacino, mother of PO2 Nicky Nacino Jr. - report from Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News
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